I am

I am from the farm dans la belle province, the land, frozen, snowed-in, snow fences and snowmelt. I am English with French subtitles.

I am stump fences and chokecherries, red maples and syrup, pancakes on Shove Tuesday.

I am potato fields, the 5th line, arrêt/stop. Barn cats and farm dogs, cow pies and puffballs in the pasture, the rushing creek & rickety log bridge.

I am small town where everyone knows your name, Sunday school, camp meetings, holy rollers and reticent Anglicans. I am low church with no candles; the pump organ belting out hymns, flies buzzing in the stained glass windows, the shadows between the pews, the kneeling bench with no cushion, creaking floor boards, dry wafers and communion wine on my knees.

I am the ploughed earth, the soaring pines, lilacs and mock orange.

I am Canada geese calling north in a great V overhead. I am Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen and the CBC on the transistor radio.

Farm Slides 013I am the river, the chutes, the dam and the mill at Portage du Fort, the smell of progress and Rene Lévesque. I am from Diefenbaker and the cold war, bomb shelters and paranoia.

I am red geraniums and dust, the sideline, tractors and the tin mailbox, letters and library books on rural route two.

I am highway eight, the truck with taillights tied on with binder twine, live chickens in crates for Kosher butchers in Montreal.

I am the anvil, the power take off, the rusty wheelbarrow and the voice of immigrant farm workers in the darkest hour, thunder and lightning on a humid night.

I am small, unseen, unheard.

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Fall Garden

 

 

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Tomatoes, home grown

Heritage

Pendulous red globes droop on the vines,

beauties grown from seed. Nurtured,

staked and watered all summer. I pick

and polish on my shirt, bite

like an apple, sweet on my tongue,

juice squirts. In the kitchen, I pierce

one with the tip of a knife, cut

slices the size of my palm. Layered

on toast we taste life itself as the light

shifts towards autumn and leaves scatter.

My hands generous and powerful as my ancestors.

 

At first I resist. Fall clean up is never as inspiring as spring digging and planting . But I catch myself with this habitual thinking. A garden is a reflection of my inner life. The reds catch my eye, turn resistance into play. The smell of decay carries a tinge of sadness. I pick a bowlful of green tomatoes and a few half-ripe ones.  A   nugget popped on my tongue explodes with sweetness.  Tomatillos overflow the basket, their paper casings like lanterns.  Roasted with garlic and jalapeños I transform them into green salsa.

I pull up mildewed tomato plants, their roots, tentacles deep in the soil. The wheelbarrow overflows three times as I dump it into the compost.  Future nutrients, these plants started from seed, provided abundance all summer and go on giving as they  decay in the bin. We need to give back what we take.

Umbrella-shaped dill fronds shed seeds and dry bean pods bulge. Saved for next spring. Weathered stakes pile up like toy arrows. They’ve supported vines and held the weight of ripening globes all summer. The tethered twine is released and jettisoned. Self-seeded parsley and kale flourishes – a winter’s supply of greens.

I am energized and enlivened after an afternoon’s work in the garden, despite death and decay. My hands happy in the earth,  intimate with everything down on my knees.

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Wild

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A grouse moved into the yard today. I caught a glimpse of him by the Gary Oak yesterday but this evening I heard a  kerffufle, wing beats and scrabbling, as if a couple of birds were fighting for territory. The grouse  perched on the edge of the roof by the back door. Most days in spring and early summer, I hear the deep whoot whoot whoot in the distance when I hike up the mountain behind the house.

Wild

Sooty grouse, whoot whoot whoot, mating call

territorial display, hens come on down.”

 

On the trail, I find an owl pellet, regurgitated rabbit bones and fur.

Cool moonlight in the depths of night—the great horned whowhowho?

 

Rufus hummingbirds, iridescent flash and whirring buzz,

pugnacious males, first at the feeder, the muted females slow time.

 

Drought blooms, lightning strikes

forest fires plunder BC.

 

A pileated woodpecker tap taps a snag.

Crows, ravens and turkey vultures swoop.

 

Whoot whoot whoot,

friend or foe in the forest?

 

Rare finds: a chocolate lily, blue Camus in the meadow.

Deer ravage wildflowers, cedar, oak and arbutus shoots.

 

Within darkness light, darkness and light a pair,

an illusion of separation.

 

Burning

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BC is burning. 156 wildfires reported earlier this week. Unfathomable. The smoke has settled here on the coast. A blue haze mutes the horizon and Mt. Maxwell is almost invisible across the valley. (The image above was taken at sunset before the smoke settled here on the coast.) The mountain is known as Hwmat’etsum or “bent over place” featured in native stories. Extensive middens mark 3,000 year-old settlements circling the bay below, known as Hwaaqwum or “place of the merganser.”

The sun is a red disc. The light is eery and half-hearted. Yellow dirty light. My throat is sore but I have nothing to complain about. Seeing, smelling and living in the smoke makes the fires real. It gives me the creeps. All that carbon, incomprehensible amounts of carbon fill the atmosphere. I feel sad. The planet is burning.

In Italy and southern Europe, the temperatures today soared above 40 degrees. People are dying from the heat. No wonder I decided to give up writing poetry this week. I need to speak my mind. To change. To change the way I live. We have to stop climate change or we are all going to perish.

But how? much more than simple things like recycling, gardening, ride sharing and no meat. It has to be big change. No more fossil fuels, no more burning! Yet how do we stop the burning when it’s caused by lightning?

This is the smokey valley and sunset in the evening. (Same viewpoint as above.)

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The Garden

This week I quit writing poetry. I want to write stories. Funny stories.  Poetry boxes me in. (Or does it free me to speak up and say something meaningful and transformative in a small space? Writing poetry is a creative act, it lifts me into another realm, takes me out of small self into big self.) But deciding to quit writing poetry lifts a weight off my shoulders.

My story is like a garden. I plant seeds in boxes in April and whoosh, they sprout without much attention. Tomatoes, peppers and  squash. I chose red and yellow tomato seeds. But now that they are growing like wildfire in the garden and on the deck, we have tons of bite-size yellow tomatoes. No juicy red plate-sized tomatoes. Like my small poems, sweet tasty nuggets flourish. The zucchinis are shiny green and prolific. Plus yellow patty pan summer squash glow like light bulbs under a canopy of leaves. Our garden. Yellow squash flowers, yellow tomatoes and yellow squash. Hmm. When I love red.

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facing rejection

This spring I vowed to submit poems to literary magazines, not contests, but straight submissions, some to themed issues. The liminal, hair, body parts. I workshopped poems, read them aloud, cut, pasted, edited and re-edited and followed submission guidelines. Did I delete the best parts? Destroy the rhythm? Within two weeks, I’ve had four rejections.

The emails arrive just before I go to bed to remind me, the rejectee, that editors work late.  From one magazine, I received 4 emails rejecting the same submission. In the first two emails, there was a typo. “We regret to inform you that we will publish your poems” turned into “we regret to inform you that we will NOT publish your poems.” Got it, first time, thank you.

In the big picture, this is nothing. This is a chance to take the rebuff and turn it into a gift. I’m just fine thank you very much. I swim daily in a clear fresh water lake. Hike a mountain and do 20 push ups. This is nothing. Empty. Transform a kick in the gut to being uplifted.

Those little gems didn’t meet the fancy of the editorial committee. I’ve had successes, published two books of poetry, won an award, been accepted to anthologies. This spring’s vow to send out poems was met. I sent out a total of 25 poems or more. I succeeded. I met deadlines. I persevered.

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Weight

Self-seeded among the dahlias, sunflowers

thrust, climb and stretch.

A green thicket among red and purple blooms,

the yellow heads open like children’s faces

tipped up to the light. Last fling,

they ripen roof high.

After summer drought, a downpour,

smell of rain on dust.

The sunflowers dip their weight, bowed

heads on tall stems like old women

carrying the weight of the world.

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